Meet Oli Savage: Artistic Director Of The Greenhouse Theatre

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greenhouse theatre

Last week I had the pleasure of chatting with Oli Savage, the artistic director of The Greenhouse Theatre. The Greenhouse Theatre is the UK’s first zero-waste theatre, and following a stint at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2019, they have created a pop-up venue in Canary Wharf.

The Greenhouse Theatre have three difference performances this year, and each one will be shown three times a week. The first is a reimagining of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, which is shown on Monday and Friday evenings, and Sunday afternoons.

Oli explains that he picked As You Like It as “Shakespeare’s really pervasive and people like it”. Such a classic play presents an opportunity to be creative and Oli believes it really fits the theatre’s aims.

“It’s a story about these two young lovers and their trials and tribulations, but it’s also, in a huge way, about the environment and nature,” he said. “In the process of telling the story the environment is second nature, and the magic of nature and environment are at the very heart of the story.”

12, which follows the breakdown of a relationship against a world that is falling apart, is shown at the theatre on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Written by Henry Robert, Oli said that he has been looking at the show for a while. 

“It’s all kind of a big metaphor for the climate crisis,” he explained. “I feel it’s a really personal and really beautiful way of looking at the relationships that will be lost, and our relationship to the natural world, in a climate catastrophe, and it’s just a really delicate, caring and loving way of exploring that idea”. 

Hjme, a modern folk story about a teenage girl who forms a bond with an elderly fisherman while she cares for her gran, has similar themes. 

“The story explores how we form relationships against these huge natural landscapes, like the ocean, and that kind of thing.” Oli said, explaining that like As You Like It, “it’s a very kind of mythical, magical folk exploration of how we connect with the natural world and how the natural world helps us build connections with other people.” 

The set is built using repurposed materials and second hand items, but other than that it’s no different from a regular theatre set. To achieve their goals of being environmentally friendly, The Greenhouse Theatre uses only second-hand items and doesn’t use electricity, meaning their sets rely on natural lighting.

“The setting is significant visually the moment the audience enters the space,” Oli added. “Hopefully it puts it in their mind throughout the entire show, so that they can say that [nature and the environment] is something to think about while considering what they think of the show.”

Each of the performances have been picked to allow audiences to think about the climate crisis and how we personally connect with nature. Oli hopes that the audience will think about the climate as they watch, however, he explains that the shows aren’t solely “designed to discuss or debate climate change”.

“They’re designed to talk about the environment in the natural world, to help people build kind of personal emotional responses to the environment, and by extension to climate change”. 

Oli believes that the way we discuss climate change can be unproductive: it is sometimes tricky to connect the facts with the bigger issue. The theatre’s events and workshops, and work to help other theatres to be more sustainable allow them to do so, but the performances they stage also play a big role. Oli, who describes himself as a storyteller at heart, certainly views theatre as an efficient way to convey key messages.

“Stories and performance are a much more effective way of helping people build emotional connections and indeed, connecting to people,” he said.

The Greenhouse Theatre will remain open at Canary Wharf until 15 August. All tickets are free, but donations are welcomed.

Words by Gurjinder Khambay


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Image Credit: The Greenhouse Theatre

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